Berry becomes tabloid fodder when she is involved in a car accident and flees the scene. Berry, who sustains a head injury, tells the Today show she was "in a state of mind that did not make me responsible in that moment" and pleads no contest to a misdemeanor charge. She pays a fine and performs community service. "Drama follows me," she tells PEOPLE in 2003. "I'm a drama magnet."
Berry takes on her first blockbuster, starring as the comic-book hero Storm in X-Men. While there are no complaints about the tight bodysuit required for the role, Berry's white wig gets mixed reviews. Entertainment Weekly calls it "annoying." For the 2003 sequel X2, Berry says to PEOPLE of her character's hairdo, "It's bad enough I've got to wear white hair with my dark skin, but the style is more layered this time. I welcomed the softening change." She reprises her role again in 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand.
Berry marries singer Eric Benét. "He's a very kind, sensitive, gentle soul," Berry tells Vogue. "Very unlike, in that regard, any man I've ever been with." The actress also immediately bonds with Benét's daughter India. Berry tells Elle, "It feels as if she's my own; she calls me Mommy."
Angela Bassett pulls out of Monster's Ball, and Berry lands the role of Leticia Musgrove, the wife of a death-row inmate. Her emotional performance gets much buzz, as does the graphic sex scene with costar Billy Bob Thornton. Berry tells PEOPLE the scene made her "wiser and more comfortable with my womanhood."
Berry makes history as the first African-American woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress, awarded for her role in Monster's Ball. "This moment is so much bigger than me," a tearful Berry says onstage. "It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance." Along with Denzel Washington's Best Actor win, the 74th Academy Awards marks the first time the two lead acting statuettes are won by African-Americans.
Berry's husband, Eric Benét, checks into Meadows rehab clinic in Arizona to seek treatment for his admitted philandering. "All marriages are challenging and complicated," Berry tells PEOPLE that year. "You say, 'I'm in this no matter what, through good times and bad times.' We're in this thing for the long haul."
In her role as James Bond's feisty sidekick Jinx in Die Another Day, Berry turns heads when she recreates Ursula Andress' sexy bikini scene. "The only direction I was given was 'Be sexy,'" she complains later to Entertainment Weekly, of re-creating the scene. "What does that mean? I'm supposed to walk out of the surf and onto the beach and somehow be sexy about it. How am I supposed to walk sexy? One guy told me I looked like I was giving myself a hip displacement."
Onstage to present the Oscar for Best Actor, Berry receives her own surprise when Best Actor winner Adrien Brody leaps onstage and steals a smooch. "He's a wet kisser," Berry says to PEOPLE. "I didn't kiss back at all." Of course, "I didn't stop him either!" For his part, Brody is unapologetic, telling PEOPLE later, "If you ever have an excuse to do something like that, that was it."
Berry files for divorce from Benét. "Eric and I have had marital problems for some time now and have tried to work things out," she says in a statement released through her publicist. "However, at this point, I feel we need time apart to reevaluate our union." The two finalize their split on Jan. 6, 2005.
It might not have been much of an honor, but Berry seems happy to accept the Worst Actress statuette for her role in Catwoman at the Golden Raspberry Awards. "I never in my life thought that I would be here, winning a Razzie. It's not like I ever aspired to be here, but thank you," she says in mock excitement, holding her Oscar in one hand and the Razzie in the other. "When I was a kid, my mother told me that if you could not be a good loser, then there's no way you could be a good winner."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): 20th Century FOX/Zuma; Kevork Djansezian/AP; Everett Collection; Kevork Djansezian/AP; Globe; John Lazar/WireImage; WENN/Landov